Over the last decade or so, the snowmobile industry has seen major changes in most aspects, but there is one thing that seems to stay the same, no matter what. I’m talking about brand loyalty/bashing, and with the social media scene fuelling that fire, I have a feeling we better get used to it. I remember when it was just a friendly feud between you and your diehard buddies, but theses days, it’s between you and what seems to be the entire snowmobile community. With just a few clicks of the keyboard, you can publish your thoughts, (positive or not), with the entire world.
I have certainly been immersed in brand loyalty, as my three previous snowmobiles have been Ski-doo. I have had some great times with little to complain about over the course of 11 years. It’s simply a great product and when you become accustomed to a certain feel, knowledge, and ride, it’s easy to stay put where you are most comfortable. As much as I tried to stay unbiased over the years, I developed strong assumptions of what I thought certain brands were or were not, and I’ll be honest, its mostly what I thought they were not. Writing for Sledworthy Magazine, and knowing a lot of awesome guys and gals, I have had lots of opportunities to try most brands and models, but these “test runs” were usually brief, and a true test should be so much more than a five minute run.
Last season brought what I would almost consider a revelation. I spent a fair amount of time riding the new Polaris Axys platform, specifically the SKS 155 and the RMK 155 800’s. Like I said, I’ve had plenty of “test runs” on different brands, but the major difference with last season was simply the amount of seat time on this particular platform. After the first hour or two, the uncomfortable awkward feel of a new chassis quickly disappeared as I learned how the sled performed and handled in various conditions and terrain. As those feelings dissipated, the more I started to push the limits of both man and machine. It didn’t take long and I was pulling lines I never thought possible, or was not capable of doing in the past. One thing that the Axys does very well is inspiring confidence. The sheer confidence that the Axys Platform gave me while riding extremely technical terrain eliminated the jitters that come along with riding intense terrain. I quickly learned that when you have 100% confidence and control, an exciting new world of possibilities lay before you. A landscape that was once off limits is now there for the taking.
It’s not too often that you can reach the limits of today’s snowmobiles, but with the Ski-doo XM platform, side-hilling and paneling out was a limit that I reached far too often, and was a major disadvantage in technical riding situations. I continuously found myself in out of control situations due to the sled’s inability to go where you pointed it. The sled did a lot of things extremely well, but traversing steep terrain is not one of them. With 90% of my snowmobiling done in the backcountry on one ski, these unruly characteristics started to get to me. To be honest, I didn’t fully understand how bad it truly was until I had something to compare it to. If you have the opportunity to ride a new platform, seize it and be sure you give it a fair shake.
After my Axys experience, (that still resonates deep in my soul), I feel I have learned a valuable lesson. I will keep an open mind toward any new platform, chassis, or model. All major snowmobile platforms have their strong suits, as well as their weak, but take it from me, don’t judge a book by its cover. Your perfect fit could be right where you least expect it.